Why I run trails.
Why wake up at 7 AM on a Saturday, drive for over an hour to stand wet (it was raining) and cold (windy too) to run with strangers across an army training ground in the mud? No, I am a long way from being a soldier – my body is built for more leisurely pursuits than combat.
That’s right; it can only be for a trail event. In this case the Hell Runner Hell Down South 2014. So what kind of madness drove 1700 plus people to give up Saturday morning, and the rest of Saturday in recovery, to run this incredibly tough course (not just my opinion my mates said it was hard too).
Self-flagellation? Setting a new PB? Collecting shiny new medals?
Maybe, the PB one isn’t a starter as the courses vary so much and as Hell Runner this year proved a huge dollop or rain can totally change a course from one year to the next. Besides I am yet to meet a trail runner who only cares about PBs. It’s nice to know how quick you were at the end of a course sure, but we are all more concerned with finishing – that’s the real aim!
I can’t comment on the self-flagellation of my fellow runners but it’s definitely not a reason for my running. Medal (and t-shirt) collection is always nice but I run trails on weekends even when I am not at an event. So it can’t be that.
I could say it’s the atmosphere and enjoyment of being with other like-minded people, having ran both on road and trail the trail events are much more relaxed and friendly. Especially during the events themselves; with people encouraging, chatting and checking on each other. After all it’s us vs. the course not me vs. you!
However I run on my own a lot at weekends. So maybe that’s not it.
Maybe it’s a Zen thing, running to take the mind off the rest of the world. A moment of pure reflection and a freedom of spirit that can only come from concentrating solely on the task at hand, letting everything else go (at least for a few hours). Maybe, I know I run a lot in order to unwind and not think about teaching and schoolwork – in fact I would prefer to run rather than teach most days!
However I think that might be very specific to me. Why are the rest of us here? Why are people doing this who might not be as ardent runners as I am?
Then we finish, and you see people’s faces. You see the smiles, the hugs and the sheer pleasure of having completed something out of their comfort zone. These are not adrenaline junkies looking for a fix by skydiving off a building, while on fire, naked. These are an ordinary people who push themselves to do something extraordinary and they love it. There is a huge sense of achievement in taking on nature and finishing.